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Is My Child Gifted?

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have a question about gifted children. One of my sons is 8 year old has had his mind set on being an astronaut since he was two. He knew all the planets and moons before 3. One fun instance he began telling us that there must be life under the ice of Europa (this was at 3 years old). A few months later it was in the news that scientist had come to this same theory.

He has always been advanced in reading and math. His teachers have told us that he reads at 8th grade level, and have nick named him Mr. MIT (this is now his college of choice) Just the other day, after asking his teacher for some harder math problems, she wrote down a bunch of algebra problems (5x - 25 = 5 as an example). He solved them all correctly in less than 3 minutes.

I have kept track of all of my children's development and do everything I can to give them opportunities to explore their interests, as well as support their dreams for the future. I would like to find a gifted program that would give my son the challenges in math that he so often asks for. Do you think I should have him tested? (I'm unsure about the validity of such things) Is it possible he is gifted? I ask because even when reading some of the other letters about what children were doing at certain ages I found myself thinking that it was normal development, as my three boys have done the same things. (letter, number recognition etc.) Then it dawned on me that perhaps what I think is normal development is actually unique. Thank you.

A: It does appear that your boys may be highly able, especially from the description you provided for your 8 year old. I can understand the frustration of being unsure if your child is gifted. But how important is this? Unfortunately the term "gifted" is used rather loosely these days and most children are indeed gifted in some way or another in the eyes of their parents. And why shouldn’t this be. After all if parents do no see the potential and nurture the potential in their children, who will. I believe it is good that parents see each child as being unique and having the ability to learn well. In fact, parental awareness on giftedness today has produced many bright children as the right environment and learning material is essential for such development.

In the scholastic world, however, there is a definition on giftedness which is rather universal and applies to most highly able children. But, as with most other definition, there will always be exception to the cases. If you want to place your child in a gifted program, you would usually need to test your child as this is the main objective criteria for giftedness (usually done by the school). But, bear in mind that giftedness comes in many forms (though we tend only to measure it by grades on a report card!); testing on a certain test will only determine ability in the items that are being tested. Standardized IQ tests are good indication of advanced abilities. Schools also use achievement tests for this purpose and some have specific aptitude tests in certain subject area (e.g., Math) to screen children with advanced skills.

For a suitable gifted program in your area, you may want to talk to the school authorities (or counselor) that your son is in. They are in a better position to advise you on appropriateness. If you have your son tested for IQ, the tester would also be able to advise you based on the interpretation of the results.

Whether the scores indicate high or average intelligence, what is important is that you encourage him to be as curious and confident of his own intelligence as he can be. In short, whether a child is screened by the school as gifted or not, all children have unique potential and it is up to the parents (especially when the children are very young) to develop that potential.


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